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Business community lending a hand to CCSD reorganization

The economics of the Clark County School District reorganization are murky.

Business leaders say only a couple of things are clear.

“Leaders at CCSD are going to go through two of the most challenging things any business owner goes through in their career,” said Bank of Nevada CEO John Guedry. “One is reorganizing their company, and two — the most challenging, changing the culture of your company.”

So Guedry and others in the business community launched the Executive Partner Program.

The program pairs business executive volunteers with 380 school district leaders — principals, associate superintendents and department heads within the newly revised central school district office — as a resource to make the reorganization process smoother.

Guedry said he hopes to eventually have 380 volunteers working one-on-one with CCSD leaders over the course of a year.

Around 65 business executives have made the commitment so far, and about 26 have started working with school leaders.

Communication is key

At a recent volunteer orientation, Guedry explained the value the business community has to offer.

“We’ve all been through some elements of this,” he told a group of three volunteers. “If you’ve been on the acquisition side of the merger, you know what it’s like to have to shift the way you culturally do things, because the buyer tends to set those rules. … If you’ve been on the acquisition side where you were the buyer, you’ve had to be very clear in your communication.”

Jeremy Hauser, vice president of entrepreneurial and empowered leadership at the Public Education Foundation, said communication is key to the reorganization.

Hauser is working with the Clark County School District to prepare district staff — starting with associate superintendents and several central school district office department heads — for the reorganization. The school district selected 16 associate superintendents last year to oversee up to 25 schools each as the district transforms.

“They’re at the very beginning of hearing the story of how things are going to be different,” Hauser said. “Once we articulate it and get the central people thinking about it, then you can start moving forward with actually taking actions.”

Hauser is also working with Guedry to match those district leaders with business partners.

‘Long overdue’

Jeff Geihs, an associate superintendent, said an effort like the Executive Partner Program is “long overdue.”

Geihs was paired with a business partner in February, when the program was launched. He said the partnership is going “extraordinarily well,” and it is nice to have a “thought partner” just a phone call away.

The business community and education community are working together “in the interest of the community, which is to have positive results, meaning students who can go into the workforce or go into a college environment and then into the workforce,” Geihs said.

Hauser ended 12 eight-hour sessions with Geihs and 25 other district leaders Friday. School teams made up of principals, assistant principals, teachers and possibly support staff and parents are next, Hauser said.

Sessions and business matches for school teams are slated to begin later this month.

The sessions will again focus on the approach to the reorganization and then transition into how the reorganization will impact roles and responsibilities, including the budgeting process.

Gene Ward Elementary School principal Lea Chua said she already has a strong budget planning background, but she doesn’t fully understand how the reorganization will impact her current budget process.

“I’m one of the lucky schools where we’re able to look at the whole amount of money that we’re assigned for the whole year and assign and delegate money to go into licensing, support staff, supplies,” Chua said.

“I just don’t know how much of a difference it is going to be in the next year or two,” in terms of transparency of the budget process and incorporating more people into the budget conversation.

Chua said she would “definitely” welcome working with a business partner to ease whatever learning curve there might be.

“That would be nice to have a business perspective,” Chua said.

Partnering in a fishbowl

The reorganization is a “massive undertaking,” Guedry said while warning volunteers of the “fishbowl” they are about to jump in.

Business partners are about to be in the “limelight of the press, the legislature” and many others who will be looking over their shoulders, Guedry said.

“Everybody has an opinion on this, and they’re all sharing their opinions with district leaders,” Guedry said. “On top of that, you have disagreements at the very top, and then you have the trustees and superintendents stuck in the middle of that.”

Business volunteer Gregory Cowper, director of business development at MonteVista Hospital, said he wants to play any role he can.

“It is a huge challenge, and if there’s something that we can do to help in any way, we sure want to offer that and be supportive,” Cowper said.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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